Risk we take when owning old property within a French town?

So… Here’s an odd question. Or maybe a bald one. Or, both.

Since we can only renovate something that still has ‘life’ left in it, i.e. that can still be renovated, how big is the risk we take in owning property in France? Not being French, I have a different perspective on the abode in which I abide. That is, I keep wanting to think in terms of trying to maintain it for perpetuity… as if that assumption is part of the responsibility inherent in owning property.

In the French countryside, in communes, towns, villages…it’s only in recent years that French homeowners have begun to take steps to preserve their homes. This is a big change, is it not, from the past, where they simply let things slide and allowed the house to deteriorate rather than invest in renovations? It does indicate that the property we take on, to renovate, will naturally be in pretty sad repair despite any renovations to get it up to code… The materials the property is built with, will be…well, old. I love that in fact: I love that I could own a property that is 150 years old, and get to live in it in comfort.

Maybe then, it’s good to renovate to make it comfortable for me, and not worry about improvements to enhance or even simply maintain the value.

There are the lovely old 250-year-old homes in the country, that are made of stone…and then there is property such as the one I’m looking at: a small, early 19th-century wooden-framed (not stone) ‘apartment’ (actually categorized as a house), possibly an afterthought to the bigger structure to which it abuts. It has value to me, as a place to live, and as a way to obtain my residence in France, and to purchase a property at a very reasonable cost in a market where others are selling for much higher. After the initial cash outlay, I can then afford to work on the property over time, to hire folks and pay for roof replacement and replace a wall or two, as the years go forward. So, I can take on these projects, and benefit from living in France and gaining momentum in my passion to be an artist.

I hope this isn’t too much of a question about personal values and personal priorities. I was hoping my question might strike a chord in someone on SF, who has deliberated in similar ways, before buying property in town.

TBH, to me, choosing a home is all about personal values and priorities so don’t feel I can comment, and from the lack of responses I guess others feel the same. However I just thought maybe this phrase

could do with clarifying because it could be a bit misleading, because “obtain my residence” could be interpreted as meaning “obtain the right to reside”, which it doesn’t. I’m sure you know this but just in case anyone reading it gets the wrong end of the stick and thinks that all they need to do to obtain the right to reside here is to buy a house.

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Hi Anna, I see what you mean, and was wondering if you might recommend that I edit my original, so it doesn’t come out as seeming to state that… Cheers.

I’m thinking the same as regards lack of responses…but I’m residing just outside of a town…there’s a world of difference between domicile and domicil and right to reside and residence…and I totally empathise with preserving a property for future generations whilst in-joying living in it…,I’ve chosen so far to do very little bar painting and freshening up and living with the quirks and idiosynchracies of an old property…(my outlook may well be to do with living with Border Collies for many years who present their own real life quirks and idiosyncrasies and paradoxes in black and white on a daily basis…! ) I’m not hung up on any right to reside and yep if push came to shove I could go back to England and live with either my mom or one of my daughters…there’s a myriad of reasons we make choices on our respective life paths/journeys…there are many properties around my area that I would consider way beyond repair but no doubt on the market…Am I taking a risk…??? Are you taking a risk…??? Do you see your self happy there…??? It’s the main consideration…do you see your self happy in the property you are currently considering…,??? (With love)


I must say I particularly enjoy your posts and outlook on life. I raised a border collie and fostered an older one back to health.

I can’t say this property I’m thinking of purchasing would be the be-all and end-all of happiness. It’s practical, and the right size, and many other good things.

If I had my druthers I’d live in a bucolic, flower-covered cottage with a large South-facing garden, in the French countryside with solar power and a woodstove for backup; with absolutely no sewer, roof, damp, or other problems; and an art studio in a nice solid barn with room for chickens and a goat; plus, in a garage 'shed, I’d have an old Ford 1930s pickup truck with a biodiesel-fueled engine.

Oh well. I’ll make my happiness, regardless. Your points about residency. Understood. I didn’t mean to suggest that I’d acquire residency as a result of owning; but I sure hope I can do so as I’ve not got quite the same backups as do you. Perhaps my anxiety shows through… It’s kind of a necessary thing, rather than an option. Life is interesting sometimes. :slight_smile:

Please keep posting, as I’m enjoying hearing about and picturing your life and those border collies. Your points are well-taken.


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Mary we would endorse everything Helen has said and applaud the spirit in which she has said it. We are a pretty elderly couple and we live on the outskirts of a small town, in a very old granite-built house (circa 1840) with an infinite number of wooden mullioned windows; a huge house that retains all its old gracious features but has mercifully been completely rewired recently, and has decent plumbing.

Because our ages add up to 156 we think it’s essential to be within walking distance of essential amenities and services, and to have a telephone and internet services. You don’t say how old you are, but if you intend to settle anywhere this is something to be borne in mind. Isolation (if you will be living alone) is very risky; one can take for granted one’s capacity to surmount problems of illness or incapacity for even brief periods when living more than 500 metres from help.

You should not, I think, disregard your anxieties. But if you can acknowledge them and do a rudimentary risk-assessment on points of concern, you should not let them deter you from following your creative impulses. We have found that we have adapted in surprising ways to a different way of life, cutting wood for the fire, tending sick chickens, going without baths and shower, tolerating dirty nails, wearing un-ironed clothes, and eating warmed-up scraps. Did I mention nosey neighbours?

I too look forward to hearing from you about your adventure. And this forum is an absolutely indispensable source of information, support and human warmth, isn’t it? :grinning:



Yes. This forum really is, thanks. I won’t disregard my anxieties; risk assessment. I’ll rent if necessary. I love how your life sounds, by the way. Cheers.


I am definitely a city girl… I’ve moved to the country, but I’ve managed to combine the two by buying in the ‘bourg’ of a small commune - a tiny urban nucleus. So I am a short walk from the mairie/poste/bank/school, although the nearest supermarket is a ten minute drive away. I don’t think I would feel happy in an isolated farm or hamlet.

You should definitely look up Maisons Paysannes de France. It’s a great organisation devoted to preserving vernacular French architecture in traditional style - we’ve benefited from visits to houses that are being or have been restored, training in traditional building methods, and recommendations for architects and artisans in sympathy with using traditional techniques and materials.

Your property may not ‘buy’ you a carte de sejour, but if you’re restoring property in a small town or large village you’ll probably be welcomed by local people and by the mairie - which is useful step on the way to getting properly integrated.